The book is about the author's investigation into writing a Rolling Stone article (June 2010) on Gen. Stanley McChrystal who was in charge of the war in Afghanistan as well as the fallout after publication of the article.
Now that I have finished the book, I'm dying to read the RS article. The author never realized what a sh*tstorm the article would create - and it did.
The middle part of the book is a little boring but stick with it. The end where the sh*t hits the fan and the fallout at the White House is fantastic.
The story is also interesting knowing about Gen Petraeus' recent scandal in Florida.
The sad part about the book is that you realize we have no business in the war. We aren't winning, they don't want us there, they don't even want democracy and our soldiers are risking the lives for nothing. It's time to bring our troops home.
I started reading this book before knowing anything about it so I was surprised when the story went from her regular school life to falling off a cliff and dying very early on in the story.
I generally like books/movies with strong female characters so this had promise. The main character Lela started out as physically and emotionally strong in the beginning, became wimpy, foolish and lovestruck towards the middle and deteriorated into a weak Disney princess at the end. She was so self-absorbed thinking everything was about her and constantly apologizing. Get over yourself - the world does not revolve around you. Her character started out as a 10 and ended up as a 2.
The supporting character who commits suicide, Nadia starts out interesting but ends up like a boring zombie. I had no interest whether she stayed in purgatory forever or not.
I would have liked the characters to be less cookie-cutter and more internally conflicted. The good guys are all good, the bad guys are all bad - there is nothing complex about them. The most interesting characters have a bit of both (think Breaking Bad).
Aside from the teenage melodrama and angst, the concept of the underworld was very interesting and the description of the houses, the people and how things worked were fascinating. The story line was exciting and moved quickly.
I was a little confused at the end of the book - like why the characters ended up where they did with that particular job. I like stories being wrapped up so that was good but I definitely had a moment of "Wait. What?" It seems like the finale was crow-barred.
I really wanted to like this book because I love history and current events. Maybe my opinion of the book would have been different if I had read it instead of listening to it as an audiobook. The narration was so painful. He would stop in the dead center of a sentence so it sounded like this: "The mountains kept forces at bay." (stop) .......... (extremely long pause) "and this affected the type of army that the county would build." He especially did this after the word "which" and as you can easily imagine, that inappropriate pause broke up the entire train of thought.
The theory behind the book is that geography affects countries which affects war which affects current events. But the book is very disorganized - shooting from one country to another, with ancient history followed by current events. There has to be a better way to organize the topics.
This is the first time I have not finished a book but I couldn't take it anymore. I intend on making another effort but the fact that I consider reading this to be a chore says plenty.
The book makes me want to visit Japan.
The book discusses the author's 10 visits to Japan and how her view of the country changes over time. Because of this book, I bought another one about Japanese culture.
She described how women and men are treated differently in Japan and how an added complication arises when the woman is an American and a professional. I felt sad for the salarymen and the endless studying for students. Her description of the island of Oki sounds wonderful - swimming around collecting glass balls used in fishing. This is in contrast with the Practice House - a house associated with a women's college where women students are taught how to behave in America. The only problem is that the Practice House is stuck in the 1960's, which matches the assumption that women's role in America is to cook, clean and make crafts.
I understand that an experience in a different country is individualistic. It is not fair to criticize the book because it doesn't match another person's experience. Just appreciate it for what it is - a retelling of events that happened to that person, at that time, in the place.
I enjoyed learning about the author's experience in Japan.
This is a fun book especially if you have an interest in cycling. First - you can't imagine how those people could ride so far on the old style bikes, fully loaded with the old heavy cameras. It's hard enough riding on top-of-the-line bikes. Second, the feats are tremendous - traveling all over the world at a time when people rarely traveled to another state.
The story is about a man who wanted to ride around the world and ended up being killed in Turkey. Another cyclist was sent to uncover the mystery and he tried his best to bring the culprits to justice.
The book is a little slow in the beginning as it jumps from one set of characters to another and you don't understand the overlay. The book puts it together at about the midway point. It gets so frustrating towards the end because of all the political bs that the rescuer had to deal with - some things never change.
Stick with the book - you'll be happy you did.
We have all heard about the Dust Bowl in grade school but the horribleness never really sunk in. I didn't know it lasted years and the extent to which the area was destroyed. The book takes you on a journey from when the land was beautiful prairie for the cowboys and American Indians and then discusses how the cultivation of the land led to a fantastic bounty which led to its demise. And as bad as things got, people wouldn't leave - some out of choice and some because they refused to let go of their dreams. We learn about things that are so heartbreaking and we hope nothing this horrible ever happens again.
One of the best books of the year - highly recommended.
The book is about one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world - the Basques.
The book discusses Basque language, cooking (including some recipes), culture, historically significant people, graffiti (3+4=1), sports (pelota), internal conflicts among the Basques themselves, the Spanish Civil War (the German bombing of Guernica), art, WWII, religion (Catholic versus secularism) and current issues. I didn't realize the Spanish government was so dictorial towards this culture.
The author is supportive of a Basque nation but that doesn't seem possible now. He almost justifies Basque violence by saying the Spanish government also engages in violence. The author thinks it is realistic for the Basques to follow their own laws but still be a part of Spain/France. That is not logical.
I gained so much knowledge and understanding of this culture. I wish I knew more about the people when I was in Spain so I could have been on the lookout for cultural references.
There is a question-answer session at the end of the audiobook. I would have liked to have heard how the Basque language sounded.
I'm really enjoying this book. I'm about 90% finished but the book is so enjoyable, I am not worried about my review changing.
Dershowitz discusses the cases that have influenced our law and politics. This book is especially interesting in light of the recent Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and same sex marriage. You don't have to be a lawyer to appreciate this book, but it does make it easier.
Dershowitz discusses cases including OJ, Mike Tyson, Klaus von Bulow, and Bush v. Gore. Keep in mind that he was personally involved in some of the cases so his opinions are different than the average person. I definitely got the feeling that he thinks OJ did it - big shocker, I know.
Keep in mind that he is very left wing so take his opinions with a grain of salt if you are not.
This is like listening to a fascinating law school lecture - and that's a good thing.
My only knowledge about Scientology was driving by their building in Los Angeles and seeing tabloid gossip.
I had NO idea what a crazy group this was.
The book takes you from the beginning of L Ron Hubbard's life to when he wrote science fiction, to when he decided to start a new "religion," to the rise of the "church," to Tom Cruise's marriage with Katie Holmes. (I wonder how the book would have addressed the breakup.) I didn't realize there was a Scientology group who rode the high seas and that there were different "bases" in the United States.
Although their beliefs aren't much different than any other religion, the group is friggin' scary. They hold church members "prisoner" if they do not follow certain standards and they chase down members who leave.
The book gives good examples of how normal people would get caught up in this craziness and crazy became normal.
Diseases can be so interesting. This book takes you on a trip back to Victorian London where people dumped crap in their basements, threw buckets of it out the window and let it sit around in open cesspools.
The story starts with a sick baby's soiled diapers and goes on to describe how Baby Lewis' waste infected water from the Broad Street Pump and killed an enormous amount of people in eight days. Dr. John Snow and the Rev. Henry Whitehead started on two separate paths to solve the mystery as to what was killing the population and ended up combining their efforts to produce a treatise on the dangers of contaminated water.
I loved the description of people who made their living collecting poo and how this process is good for society in general. The most boring part was when the author recited every question that was listed in the Board of Public Health questionnaire.
The last chapter is dedicated to what the cholera outbreak in London has to do with us now and for our future. That part is very scary.
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